I would say that Kadence is one of the best restaurants in Central Florida but I’m not sure that it is. A restaurant, I mean.
Sure, it meets most of the criteria: It prepares and serves food for which customers pay; beverages are available; full service is provided.
But those components are applied in such a way as to produce something unique.
For starters, you don’t so much as make a reservation to dine here as you do buy a ticket. You essentially pay for your meal in advance and your purchase is nonrefundable, just as it would be if you were buying a ticket to a performance, which in a way you are. The policy helps to cut down on the number of no-shows and lessens the pain if a booked seat goes empty.
Because there are only nine seats in the place.
Nine stools, actually, and all are situated at an L-shaped sushi bar facing the sushi prep arena where co-owners Lordfer Lalicon, Mark Berdin and Jennifer Benagale perform a careful choreography of exquisitely executed omakase, supported by a cadre of backstage assistants.
Those tickets are not inexpensive. Dinner is $190 per person; lunch is $85; and a matinee option — sort of an early bird sushi dinner — is $95. Beverages, including a sake pairing, are extra. Empty seats are rare because regulars regularly snap up the openings as soon as the bookings are available, on the first of the month for the following month.
When I dined for lunch, earlier in the summer before the restaurant took a July hiatus, there were at least four frequent diners among my fellow guests. And one man was negotiating to return for the matinee seating that same day.
Yes, it’s that good. And when quality is considered with cost, a meal here is a bargain.
There is no menu, and everyone is seated and served at the same time. The building is a gray box with no signage. That might be taken as arrogance but should instead be interpreted as confidence. Why invest in signage when your business model doesn’t rely on walk-in traffic?
I can’t tell you what to have; you’ll have what they serve you. It's omakase, left to the whim of the chefs. What they serve you will depend on what can be acquired that is the freshest and highest quality.
Don’t ask for substitutions and don’t show up expecting that your aversion to raw fish will be accommodated with kitchen food replacements, it’s not going to happen. Do ask questions and be engaged in the experience — the chefs enjoy talking about their craft. And watch the skill and dexterity that go into making each morsel. You’ve not likely seen anything like it hereabouts.
Nor tasted anything like it, either.
Here are some of what I experienced.
We began with sashimi selection of octopus (slightly boiled), kampachi (yellowtail), arcti char from Iceland, fatty tuna from Mexico, and a little more octopus but raw.
Japanese sea bass.
Squid with trout roe.
More tuna with salmon, seared with a torch.
Ikura, or salmon roe.
A palate refreshing cantaloupe soup with grapefruit granitee.
Berdin told us that Kadence has a tradition of having guests shotgun a can of sake on their first visit. (Shotgunning, in case you don’t remember from your college years, involves punching a hole in the bottom of a can then popping the top and chugging the contents.)
So why not?
At the end of the meal, I presented the three owners with the 2018 Foodster Award for Best Restaurant Overall as voted by the readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide. I agree with their decision.
There was plenty of space on the walls to hang it.
Kadence is at 1809 Winter Park Road, Orlando. It serves lunch Wednesday through Saturday, matinee and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Japanese breakfast, or asagohan, is served on Saturdays. It does not publish a phone number; all communications are through the website.